- Publisher: The Baffler
- Editor: John Summers
- Available in: PDF
We promised we would squirm free of our university press overlords and hazard The Baffler’s new fortunes in the wilds of independent publishing. Why in the world? In truth, the decision was a mark of confidence and a leap of faith, a nod to the “as-if” attitude handed down by our rebel ancestors—act “as if” today’s America is a time and place where an independent magazine can reach through the fog and change minds, and you help make it so. The as-if attitude, granted, requires you to discern hope from fantasy. But it’s more fun than pessimism, and more responsible than passivity.
And it works. Let 2015 mark the year we took back the means of baffling. We opened a new business office in New York to work in concert with our editorial HQ in Harvard Square . With our staff doubled and our capacities uncorked, we produced the largest three issues in The Baffler’s history—on the rule of fashion (Venus in Furs), the dance of violence and empathy (Battle Hymns), and the family unit as a fulcrum for furthering economic inequality (The Family That Preys Together). That’s 624 handsomely appointed printed pages, evidence of art and criticism with a spine, in support of which we organized public events in Chicago, Baltimore, and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, we tore down the paywall on our website and fine-tuned our frequency in the vast digital multiverse, ringing up blog posts and daily bafflements. Alongside the complete contents of the print issues, we published 160 web-only essays, including an especially popular one about the crossbreeding of Labrador retrievers and poodles (called, yes, “The Labradoodle Racket”). Over the course of the year, our social media following grew by thirty percent. Thirty!
What are we learning? That the twenty-first century merger of elite business, politics, and entertainment has left a popular yen for unbought opinion, reporting, and literary scribbling? Yes. That artists, writers, and readers feel their aspirations are wasted by a society interested only in marketable skills, yet find refuge in essays, poems, and short stories that refuse to talk down to them? You bet. The Baffler is a personal cliché-decoder, a counter-example to the supposedly inevitable structural forces in media and scholarship that have dismantled publications like ours and bottomed out expectations of quality.
As 2015 wore on and the bugles of Trumpism blared, new subscriptions came in from grateful readers. We saw boomlets not only in East Coast cities like Boston, New York, and Washington, DC, but also in Houston and Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. In 2016, we are upping the ante, moving the magazine to a quarterly publication schedule for the first time in The Baffler’s history and adding a new slate of web columnists.
This Impact Statement is a running scorecard of our start-up years. Flip though it for a general survey of our programs from 2012 through 2015, and for a loving look at our history from the beginning, when Ronald Reagan started the mess we’re in. Don’t listen to the nincompoops who maintain the forces of reaction have triumphed and the country’s soul has wandered. We are living in a great age of magazines, on the lip of a renaissance in critical thinking. Ignore the naysayers’ insistence that nobody reads any longer. They do. They read The Baffler.